If there was ever a challenging year to start something new, its been 2020. But all said, lots of great things have happened this year, in spite of COVID-19 and all the restrictions & precautions. Case in point: The Uptown Farmers Market in Charlotte NC.
Open at the first of the year, almost immediately this new market went into COVID-19 safety mode; but happily there was plenty of room for social distancing and for the setting up of easy to use hand washing stations.
With so many people living in Uptown Charlotte, a farmers market just a short walk or bike ride away from home was the perfect fit.
And, for those coming to shop local from other areas of Charlotte, the 4 1/2 acre parking lot of the First Baptist Church in Uptown, at 300 S. Davidson Street offered lots of room for a myriad of local vendors and left lots of spaces for parking as well.
This weekend, Saturday Dec 12, marks the last market of the 2020 season Uptown. Vendors will be there to serve and sell to local shoppers from 8 am to 12:30 pm.
Then, the team is taking a break for the winter months, but are planning spring of 2021 events now. Personally, I can’t wait!
Best way to keep “in the know” as Uptown Farmers Market management makes plans for the 2021 season?
Visit the market website at UptownFarmersMarket.com and sign up for their newsletter.
I’m pleased to say I’ve been writing weekly recipes for the market all through this inaugural season and hope to continue on next year as well.
The experience has been a pleasure! You can find all of those weekly recipes one in each past newsletter, here.
Giving Back as You Shop Local
Throughout the year, the Uptown Farmers Market has continually run programs designed to give back to the community including their Community Table initiative.
Through this fund and initiative, they have been able to accept monetary donations from individual market shoppers and supporters as well as area businesses, so that each week they have been able to purchase produce from the farmers at the market and then distribute it to Charlotte families in need as identified by several other non profits in the city. The goal to help alleviate the food insecurity so sadly affecting many sectors of our community.
In addition since their opening days, the Uptown Farmers Market has accepted SNAP EBT cards and has offered Market Double Bucks for EBT shoppers; matching up to $20 per market day, to help insure that everyone in our city has the opportunity to eat fresh and local.
Keep Shopping Local with Market Vendors
While the market is closing for the winter season, all of the vendors who made the market what it was, will keep on growing, producing at individual farms and selling at other area markets or brick & mortar locations.
Check out the entire list of vendors who have been at the Uptown Farmers market this year, here, on the Market website. Look for them at their own shops and at other area markets or plan to shop with them at individual farm stores.
Here are just a few of the highlights from several of my recent market trips. Info on where you can find some of the market vendors between now and next spring follows along with a wonderful holiday recipe for Peking Duck you can easily make at home. With a few notes on how to keep it local!
Evans Family Farm and Windy Hill Farm both have shops on their website and you can pick up at each individual farm. You’ll find Windy Hill at the Southend Market at Atherton and the Charlotte Regional Market on Yorkmont Rd.
Lucky Fish, the seafood purveyor at the Uptown Farmers Market, has a retail store at 1427 South Blvd. and is at the Southend Market as well as at the Piedmont Farmers Market, the Charlotte Regional Market ( at the Peaceful Valley Trout booth) and at the Mt. Holly Farmers Market.
When You want to Drink Local
Turn to Craftsmen Beverage Co out of South Carolina – also available at the Southend Farmers Market. Craftsmen makes delicious syrups and mixers for all your home cocktailing and mocktailing. Use the Craftsmen products as marinades and salad dressing starters as well.
As for as coffee and tea go, Enderly Coffee and Paulines Tea Apothecary have been at the Uptown Market since the beginning. Both have Brick & mortar locations in Charlotte where you can sip and shop with them on a daily basis. Enderly is at 2620 Tuckaseegee Rd; while Pauline’s is located at 2326 Arty Ave, both in Charlotte, NC. Both places offer an assortment of great gift items for all the coffee and tea lovers on your holiday gift list.
Snack local at the Uptown Farmers Market, too!
In addition to all of the fresh baked pastries at the Uptown Farmers Market; if you want a great snack or a condiment for your favorite meat, chicken, seafood or veggie entree, turn to Blue Goat Dairy and Toro Loco Party Salsa.
It was my pleasure to get to know both of these vendors and their products better this year at the Uptown Farmers Market. You can find Blue Goat Dairy’s selection of goat cheeses and a host of great edible goat cheese gifts at the Southend Market; while Toro Loco also sells their delicious trio of salsas at throughout the year at the Matthews Community Farmers Market, winter hours there are Saturdays 8-10 am.
Need a little fresh baked bread to go with that salsa, guac and goat cheese? Enter Verdant Bread.
Verdant’s fresh baked loaves all made with heirloom grain have been a big hit and a fast seller at the Uptown Market this year. From now till the time the Uptown market opens in the spring, you can also shop with them at their bakery on Monroe Road in Charlotte and buy on Saturday mornings at the Matthews Community Farmers Market. I strongly suggest going online and ordering in advance for Matthews market pick up.
Sweet and Spicy
Two new acquaintances I made at the Uptown Farmers Market this year kept my summer a little bit sweet and a little bit spicy.
On the sweeter ( and sometimes savory) side of things Magpies, tiny delicious homemade handpies that just make you happy. Often at the Southend Market, Magpies has an interactive website where you can place orders and arrange for pick up or drop off.
Looking for great school lunch treats or sandwich replacements, Magpies line for kids is your answer; and there is a lot of sweet and savory offering adults will love as a healthy snack or quick lunch as well. Visit the Magpies website for more details and ordering info.
On the spicy side of things there is Angry Nani with a wonderful selection of fresh homemade Indian spice blends. There is a lot to learn from Angry Nani but she is happy to share and each of her spice blends come with her own sure to satisfy and easy to prepare recipes. I have loved her authentic chai in my afternoon tea and now sip her wellness concentrate each and every morning.
Find Angry Nani and all of her delicious spices online here. Shop for gifts for your favorite gourmet or gourmand and for your kitchen or pantry as well.
Produce at the Uptown Farmers Market
While there are several produce vendors at The Uptown Farmers Market, many of whom I have written about and talked about in Facebook and instagram videos throughout the year; Crouching Hippo Farms who also sell at the Charlotte Regional Market, are making things a little bit easier for their new customers they have met Uptown.
Go to their website to place an advance order and you can still pick it up at the Uptown Farmers Market location from 9-10 am on Saturday morning. This service is for advance orders only. All the details are on the Crouching Hippo website, here.
Now, lets cook…
Like you I will miss shopping at the Uptown Market through the winter months, but look forward to their return in the spring.
I leave you with a recipe today featuring Windy Hills Farm Pekin ducks. This is not a 30 minutes or less situation; but the time you put into this process results in some of the best duck I’ve ever had. Crispy skin and tender meat that you will roll into a homemade pancake slathered with your own from scratch hoisin. What a wonderful way to eat local. Enjoy.
Homemade Peking Duck
For the Duck:
1 whole Pekin Duck from Windy Hills Farm
1/4 cup NC Sorghum Syrup Molasses
2 tsp. Mushroom flavored soy sauce
2 Tbsp. NC’s Celtic Sea Salt
2 tsp. baking powder
For the Mandarin Pancakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup boiling water
1/4 cup dark roasted sesame oil
Homemade Hoisin Sauce
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. Chinese Black Bean Sauce
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Rice vinegar
4 dried prunes
1/2 tsp, roasted dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon five spice powder or keep it local and use Angry Nani’s Garam Masala
Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Store in the fridge in an airtight glass jar and it will last about a week.
To prep and cook the duck:
For best results, start this process three days in advance of the eating.
Rinse, and pat dry with paper towels. Use your fingers or dull handle of a wooden spoon, to carefully separate skin from breast meat. Take your time and take care not to tear skin.
Mix sorghum and soy; stir together to blend. Rub over the entire surface of the duck, coating all exposed skin. Combine salt and baking powder in small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over all surfaces of duck. Refrigerate duck, uncovered, at least 12 and up to 36 hours until surface is completely dry with leathery appearance.
Adjust rack to lowest position and preheat oven to 350.
Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to a rolling boil in a large stockpot. Place duck on wire rack set in sink. Pour half of boiling water over top surface of duck, making sure to cover skin evenly. Flip duck and pour remaining boiling water over second side. Allow duck to dry 5 minutes.
Stand duck vertically onto a vertical roaster – or you can use a beer or soda can by inserting beer can into cavity and place on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet.
Roast, rotating after 30 minutes until skin is a deep mahogany, about 1 hour. Reduce heat to 250 and continue roasting until fat stops dripping from cavity, about 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove duck from the metal roaster onto a cutting board. Allow to rest 10 minutes before carving.
While the duck is roasting, make the Mandarin Pancakes:
Combine flour and boiling water in medium bowl and stir with wooden spoon until shaggy dough forms. Turn out on floured countertop and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Cut dough into 24 rounds. Cover with damp ( not wet) towel, to keep the dough from drying out.
You’ll roll out the pancakes in twin rounds. On floured surface, roll one piece of dough into three-inch circle. Repeat with second ball. Using pastry brush, coat top of the first round with a bit of sesame oil. Top with the second round of dough. Roll balls together into 8 to 10-inch circle (these should be thin)
Preheat heavy-bottomed 12-inch cast iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat until hot. Place pancakes on griddle and cook until lightly browned in spots on first side, about 1 minute. Flip and repeat on second sides, about 30 seconds longer.
Transfer to plate lined with clean kitchen towel and carefully peel pancakes apart. Fold towel over cooked pancakes to keep warm and repeat with remaining dough.
8-10 scallions, roots trimmed but still attached and cut to about 2-3 inches in length
1 small cucumber, seeded; cut into 4-inch long matchsticks
Carve duck, making sure to remove all skin, including skin on the back and legs. Spread one pancake with the hoisin sauce, top with cucumber and scallion, and add duck meat and crispy skin. Fold or roll up the pancake to eat and enjoy! Now, have another!